Marine Corps Initial Strength Test (IST)

Marine recruits do pull-ups during their initial strength test.
U.S. Marine Corps recruits with Platoon 4038, Papa Company, 4th Recruit Training Battalion, execute pull-ups during their initial strength test on Parris Island, South Carolina, July 20, 2018. (Sgt. Dana Beesley/U.S. Marine Corps photo)

The USMC physical fitness test is administered every six months. All Marines are provided time to train and are expected to maintain an adequate degree of physical fitness.

The standard physical fitness test consists of three events that measure cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, and endurance and mobility.

Fitness changes within the Marine Corps always are evolving. Over the past several years, the service added the combat fitness test (CFT) and updated the physical fitness test (PFT) and the initial strength test (IST) for new recruits.

The Corps also is adding the option to replace crunches with the plank pose, beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

Fitness is essential to the day-to-day effectiveness and combat readiness of the Marine Corps. The service considers physical fitness an indispensable aspect of leadership. The habits of self-discipline required to gain and maintain a high level of physical fitness are inherent to the Marine Corps way of life and must be a part of the character of every Marine. Marines who are not physically fit can be a detriment to the readiness and combat efficiency of their units. Accordingly, every Marine should engage in an effective physical conditioning platoon (PCP) on a continuing and progressive basis.

The initial strength test for recruits

If you are thinking about joining the Marine Corps, you will have to pass the IST. A shortened version of the PFT, the IST is the first physical test aspiring Marines must pass to attend recruit training. You should practice it on your own before your first time taking it with Marines.

The IST consists of four events: pull-ups, crunches, timed 1.5-mile run and ammo can lift. The minimum and recommended standards for Marine recruits selecting a load-bearing military occupational specialty and passing the IST are as follows:

Minimum Standards Recommended Standards
3 Pull-ups 10-15 Pull-ups
45 Ammo Can Lifts 76+ Ammo Can Lifts
44 Crunches (2 minutes) 80-100 Crunches (2 minutes)
1.5-Mile Run in 13:30 1.5-Mile Run in sub-10:30

Those Marines who are not selecting a load-bearing activity MOS like infantry and artillery, etc., should be able to pass the IST with the following minimums:

Men have to complete a 1.5-mile run in 13 minutes, 30 seconds; women have 15 minutes. Both men and women must do 44 crunches in two minutes.

Minimum Standards Recommended Standards
2 Pull-ups (men)

12-sec flexed arm hang (women)

10-15 Pull-ups (men)

3 pull-ups (women)

44 Crunches (2 minutes) 80-100 Crunches (2 minutes)
1.5-mile Run in 13:30 (men)

1.5-mile Run in 15:00 (women)

1.5-mile Run in sub-10:30 (men)

1.5-mile Run in sub-12:00 (women)

But the goal is not to be at the minimum standards; strive for better than that. Reaching for the maximums is more of the Marine way of thinking and doing.

Note: These recommended standards are my recommendations, not the military’s, for candidates before attending boot camp. Keep in mind that attending boot camp or any Marine Corps training with only minimum standards will not serve you well to be a top performer. Achieving only the minimum standards creates more problems for you with injuries, remedial PT/running programs and distracting you from learning your true job: Being a Marine.

The Marine Corps is a challenging profession. More information can be found at the Stew Smith article archive.

For more specific info on the USMC PFT:

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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